Kansas State baseball has been in full force for the last month. As warmer weather draws in more fan interest, a new face stands out among the team: first baseman Roberto Pena.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Pena grew up playing both soccer and baseball, garnering a deep passion for sports. Athletics have been a point of stability, helping him through his toughest points in life.
“It’s always been there,” Pena said. “Baseball and my dad have always been there for me and have never failed for me. It’s my go-to every time, whenever I am struggling. I just go out to the field; it helps get my mind off of everything.”
Pena and his father fled from Venezuela when Pena was young, moving to Miami where he would have to learn a new language and culture.
Baseball became a second home for Pena, finishing his high school career with a state title and being named to the 2018 MaxPreps Media School All-American second team. Entering college, Pena decided to stay close to his new home.
He began his collegiate career at Florida in 2019 before bouncing around the state to the College of Central Florida in 2020 and South Florida in 2021. K-State’s head coach, Pete Hughes, eventually recruited Pena.
“We track the [transfer] portal, and my second son Hal actually played summer baseball during the summer of 2020 with him in the Florida Collegiate League,” Hughes said. “They got to be friends and my son got to watch him play and he was able to tell me what kind of player he is.”
Despite being nearly 1,500 miles away, Pena took a chance and bought into the program that Hughes was selling.
“He [Hughes] is a great guy,” Pena said. “I trusted him. I have never been outside the state of Florida and he told me I wouldn’t regret it and I don’t. I’m having the time of my life here at K-State.”
In his first season at K-State, Pena has become a veteran presence in the locker room.
“He is a great role model for our younger players,” Hughes said. “He exemplifies playing this game even keel so you can deal with the ups and downs of the game and he certainly proved that for our younger players.”
Despite only being on the team for close to five months, Pena was voted team captain by his peers, displaying the respect that both his coaches and fellow players have for him. For Pena, work ethic and responsibility are a point of pride.
“Leading by example is one of the things I take really serious, win or lose,” Pena said. “I am usually the last one to pick up trash in the dugout, picking up balls, simply by example. I try to bring the team together on and off the field, even though we have different personalities. I still try to make sure when we win, everybody is there hanging out.”
Pena went through a dry spell in the early weeks of March. He recorded only nine hits throughout 14 games until he had a breakout performance against West Virginia. He recorded three home runs and seven RBI in the series, earning him the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week award.
For Pena, the team’s success is what matters most. Pena and the team look to build momentum throughout the season as they dive further into conference play.
“I just try to go out there every day and help my team win and win the Big 12 and make it to Omaha,” Pena said. “That was my goal ultimately from the day I got here.”